From What’s Up: UTEP celebrates 100 years of success

By on April 23, 2014

Once a Miner, always a Miner.

That depends on which TSMM/TCM/TWC/UTEP grad you’re taking to. If you can find the first graduate of the Texas School of Mines and Metallurgy still alive, good luck – that was the school’s official name when it officially was born April 13, 1914.

At the time its informal name was just the School of Mines; since 1967 it’s been the University of Texas at El Paso.

Minerland’s history has been documented in books, oral histories, a Sports Illustrated hatchet job and at least one accuracy-thin basketball movie, among others places. The school’s Bhutanese architecture angle is well known.

Keith A. Erekson understands all this. The UTEP assistant professor of history also is executive director of UTEP’s Centennial celebration – a 2014 bash that started in January and continues full speed ahead through December.

The Baltimore transplant said the first few months of the school’s centennial have been successful beyond compare.

“So far, people have been really excited about it, and we’ve been getting good reaction,” Erekson said. “Things are going well.”

But there are some events that have particularly excited Erekson, one of which was the open house, which took place April 10-13 and was aimed at the off-campus community.

That event  – a long weekend that featured current faculty and students talking about the school, campus walking tours and other events – drew thousands of people, Erekson said. It also specifically was tied in with the school’s April 13, 1914, birthday.

“People came away from it all excited,” he added, citing the art department, for instance, opening up its studios for hands-on activities, which proved very popular. An added attraction for the open house was the chance to celebrate the success of this year’s women’s basketball team.

Erekson also relishes the prospect of a large outdoor event scheduled to take place at 7 p.m. May 17: commencement.

Picture 3,000 graduates seated en masse on chairs on the turf, spectators in the West bleachers and a stage on the 50-yard line.

The event normally takes place at the Don Haskins Center; because of the growing number of graduates each spring, UTEP for years has divided this daylong commencement into morning, afternoon and evening sessions for the different colleges.

This year at least, UTEP can handle everybody all at once.

“All the May graduates now can graduate together, including friends (graduating) in different colleges,” Erekson noted, saying that commencement will present interesting logistics, including graduates crossing the stage from both left and right, President Diana Natalicio shaking thousands of grad hands and fireworks at the end.

“We hope it’s tremendous success,” added Erekson, noting that one estimate said it might run at least three hours.

Erekson, at UTEP for six years, marveled at the school’s growth. From the 27 students who enrolled in the first semester (Fall 1914) to the 23,000-plus there last spring, the growth is impressive.

“We wanted to reach out to our friends and fans in the community,” added Erekson. “We realized we couldn’t have just one big event to go to, so we’re encouraging folks to go to all these events.”

In his 1964 book “Frontier College,” Francis Fugate quoted an El Paso Herald editor who wrote on May 1, 1914, “The school will become very much what El Paso chooses to make it.”

Whether you like the old place or not, if you’re a Miner, 2014 is a good time to show it a little affection. Give it a hug now and then.

Published 4/23/14 at

The Centennial Office is located in room 403 of UTEP's Administration Building. Contact us at (915) 747-5362 or